Rabbit Foot Bill – Helen Humphreys

It is 1947 in a small town in Saskatchewan. Leonard is a young boy who befriends a reclusive man known as Rabbit Foot Bill. Bill commits a sudden act of violence and is sent to prison. Twelve years later, Leonard is a recently graduated doctor of psychiatry. His first job is at the Weyburn Mental Hospital where he encounters Bill again. What follows is a strange obsession that ends badly. This book explores the frailty and resilience of the human mind, and the elusive relationship between truth and fiction. The story also reveals the abysmal treatment of mental illness in the 1950s with use of LSD by both the doctors and patients. Humphreys is an under-appreciated literary goddess, with previous gems like The Evening Chorus, The Lost Garden and Nocturne.

Wild Rose by Sharon Butala

ButalaWild Rose by Sharon Butala writes wonderfully about the beauty of Saskatchewan, especially her descriptions of the grasslands flowing in the wind (e.g. Perfection of the Morning). This book describes the adventures of a French-Canadian newly-wed couple as they travel west from Quebec to homestead in Saskatchewan in the early 1880s. Butala’s description of the isolation and hardship of homesteading is beautifully written and compelling; the bitter cold of winter is especially evocative. The core of the book is a story of resilience for a headstrong young woman, Sophie. This is a great read. (As an aside, Butala has recently relocated to Calgary).